'Don't assume the worst' of Trump on trade, Obama says in Peru

President Obama said he doesn't expect major changes in Latin American policy under the Trump administration, and urged people to "not make immediate judgments" until the president-elect puts his team together.

"Don't just assume the worst. Wait until the new administration is in place, is putting its policies forward, and then you can make your own judgments," Obama told a group of 1,000 young leaders from around the Americas in Peru on Saturday.

"There are going to be tensions that arise, probably more about trade more than anything else," he said. But even there, Obama said he's not convinced Donald Trump would tear up trade deals, as the president-elect promised on the campaign trail. "Once they look at how it's working, I think they’ll conclude that it’s working both for the United States and its trading partners."

Obama's comments Saturday, during his final stop on what's scheduled to be the last foreign trip of his presidency, followed a pattern of trying to give Trump space to adopt what Obama hopes are more conventional policies.

In Europe this week, Obama reassured allies Trump would maintain the U.S. commitment to NATO, and he'll likely have a similar message for Pacific Rim leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru on Sunday.

"How you campaign is not always the same as how you govern," Obama said. "When you’re campaigning, you're trying to stir up passions. When you govern, you have reality in front of you, and you have to figure out how to make this work."

On trade, for example, Obama said the 2009 Peru Trade Promotion Agreement has benefited the United States by ensuring that workers aren't undercut by abusive labor practices in Peru, but also allowing Peruvian workers to be customers for U.S. products.

"We did it also because that will help lift the wages and benefits and protections that workers here in Peru have," he said. "Then they have more money in their pockets, then they go out an spend that money, which is good for business and everybody is better off."

Obama also met Saturday with the 11 other leaders from countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade agreement in limbo now that its largest signatory, the United States, appears unlikely to ratify. But the White House said Obama used the meeting to urge the other countries to press forward on "high-standard trade agreements."

USA TODAY


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